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The Problem with Mandatory Meal Plans

The faculty and staff at Oklahoma Christian University work dutifully to ensure students are gifted with an exceptional education and faith-filled experience during their few years in studies.

Oklahoma Christian offers students a variety of rigorous study programs to choose from. Each program is constantly modifying itself to prepare each class of students for their next steps. Not to mention, the programs’ statistics can boast for themselves.

According to Oklahoma Christian’s website, students are soaring in academics. In the last two years, 100 percent of students in the biology program with the respective GPA and MCAT requirements were accepted to medical schools.

Within history and political science, nearly 100 percent of graduates were accepted to law school or graduate school for nearly 20 years. These are just two facts out of many, which prove Oklahoma Christian’s academics are preparing students to succeed in their professional endeavors.

Along with numerous other choices offered to students to participate in––social clubs, the Student Government Association, organizations within majors, academic societies­­––students are positively overwhelmed with campus life. This is due, once again, to the outstanding faculty and staff who work effortlessly to make sure Oklahoma Christian students are filled with a rewarding experience.

Yet what all great institutions have in common is this: none of them are perfect. There is always room for additional improvement, and for Oklahoma Christian, one arguably necessary improvement involves mandatory meal plans for students living on campus.

The university’s 2018-2019 academic catalog states, “All undergraduate students, excluding married students, living in OC are required to select a meal plan.”

For freshmen and sophomore students living in the dormitories, meal plans are practically a necessity. Underclassmen do not have access to kitchens within their living spaces, with exception to one small community kitchen located on each floor of the building.

A large majority of underclassmen are not pursuing professional internships off campus, so they usually remain on campus during the week unless they have an off-campus job. With many underclassmen staying on campus, it makes sense they need to purchase a meal plan. Without one, they would not have many options for meals.

However, once a student reaches a junior classification, they move to campus apartment housing. These campus apartments include four phases for students to choose from: Phase 3, Phase 4, Phase 5 and Phase 6. While the different phases vary in size and price, each of them includes a kitchen area with a stove, dishwasher, cabinets, refrigerator, etc.

Even though each apartment building includes these amenities, students living in campus apartment housing are required to select a meal plan. Students can view meal plan options both online and in the current academic catalog, but the cheapest meal plan available still includes 75 meals per semester with 100 Eagle Bucks (essentially cash for students to use at the campus Chick-fil-A Express, Alfredo’s Express, Jimmy John’s and the local OnCue).

This “cheapest” meal plan still costs students $1,650 annually. Unfortunately, many of them do not even use the entire meal plan, which means their money is going straight down the drain.

Why is this such an issue? Why won’t students living in the apartments just eat in the cafeteria or live off campus?

For one, living off campus is difficult to attain through Oklahoma Christian’s standards, which you can read here. Most students do not qualify to live off campus or cannot afford it because they are still full-time students, which means their only option is campus housing.

Secondly, while it makes sense for underclassmen to eat in the cafeteria each day, it is quite the opposite for upperclassmen. Many, if not most, of the upperclassmen, hold internship positions and off-campus jobs between classes, which more often than not do not allow them to eat in the cafeteria at typical meal times.

A large number of upperclassmen take full advantage of their kitchens and cook meals, pack lunches, etc. to have meals throughout the day in between working and attending class. All in all, they do not have time to eat in the cafeteria, and because of this, they suffer financial consequences.

Mandatory meal plans surely have positive benefits, which allow the university to offer students a well-rounded, unique college experience. However, I would like to think there are better ways to do it without raising costs.

Students work hard to push themselves personally, professionally and academically. Many students take out loans to put themselves through this prestigious university. Why should they have to continue to endure another nonessential expense?

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